Questions are better vague or specific

How does the SMART formula work?

Only those who know their destination will find the way.
(Lao-tse, Chinese philosopher)

SMART ... isn't that old hat now? Everyone knows! Is chewed through in every seminar and every further training.

The funny thing is that, despite this, so many mistakes are made when formulating goals. So it doesn't seem that easy, is it?

The importance of concrete and measurable goals cannot be overstated.

Why is the SMART formula important?

Quite simply: Because many goals are given that are not goals at all. Activities that are more disguised and only presented to the outside world as goals.

Would you like some examples?

Improved user interface
Lower manufacturing costs
Implementation as soon as possible
High quality
Relocation to a new office building

What happens to such goals at the end of the project? The project manager is of the opinion that the project has been completed - the client has a completely different opinion. Wouldn't it be a coincidence if, with such vaguely formulated goals, both had the same picture in mind?

OK. There must be a better way. And the SMART formula helps!

How is the SMART formula structured?

Very simple: five initial letters - five criteria that a good goal should meet. Take a look at them:

S - specific

A goal should be as specific and specific as possible. Example: "Construction of a single-family house in solid construction with a maximum of 125 square meters of living space on a plot of land on a hillside with completion by November 30, 2013." instead of “building a single-family house”.

M - Measurable

It is important to state a quantity structure, a time specification or some other measurable criterion. Unfavorable formulations are, for example, “the lowest possible costs”, “increase in quality”, “expansion of market share” etc. All of these formulations lack a specific, measurable criterion. Example: “Compliance with the project budget of 300,000 euros.” instead of “low project costs”.

A - Accepted

Goals that are viewed as unacceptable by the project team have little chance of success. Example: "Plastering the single-family house with pink plaster and attaching a flower pattern." may not be accepted by the building authorities in contrast to “plastering the house in the same color scheme as that of the neighborhood.”

R - Realistic

This criterion is closely related to the previous point: Realistic goals are accepted more easily and are much more motivating than those that are already considered unrealistic in advance. Example: “Completion of the house by November 30, 2013” ​​instead of “Completion of the house by the end of the coming month.”

T - Terminable

A simple criterion: the specification of a time. Does not always apply to all goals. For example, if the goal is purely financial (e.g. compliance with the budget) or a purely technical one (“dark red roof tiles”), scheduling often does not matter. Deadline goals are often formulated separately. Example: “Ground floor ready to move in by November 20, 2013.” instead of “Ground floor ready for occupancy early”.

Do all the criteria of the SMART formula always have to be met?

As is so often the case, there is not only black and white, but also a gray area: not every goal really has to fully meet each of these criteria.

Accepted and realistic goals often arise as if by themselves. Who chooses goals that nobody can achieve anyway? (I practically see you grimace at the fact that your boss thinks he has to go to unrealistic goals. But that's another topic.)

The sticking point is always measurability: How can I measure or check that the goal has actually been achieved? Which specific numerical values, dates, comparative values ​​can I use?

Examples of the SMART formula

Bad: I want to smoke less.
Better: From 1.5. I won't smoke a single cigarette - until the rest of my life.

Bad: The stakeholders should be informed.
Better: All stakeholders marked with priority A in the stakeholder analysis receive a 2-page status report with information on the target and actual status of the project and current activities by email at the end of each month.

Bad: Better usability.
Better: The usability of the software is rated “very good” by at least 90% of the participants in a usability test.

Bad: Increase in sales
Better: The gross sales in the product category “women's hats” increased in the 2nd quarter of the year by at least 15% compared to the previous year.

Bad: Compliance with the budget
Better: The project budget in the amount of 100,000 euros will not be exceeded.

You can find lots of other examples here:


If the SMART formula were really worn out, all project goals in the world would be perfectly formulated - which is not the case.

Use this super-simple formula and see if your goals meet the criteria. If you meet the criteria - great! Then a good basis has been created for further work.

You can find another exciting article on the SMART formula here: Formulating smart goals: This is how you do it right (and this is how others do it wrong)